When Suleika Jaouad graduated from Princeton in 2010, she was considering a career as a war correspondent. Instead, within months, she was diagnosed with a rare form of acute myeloid leukemia. She quickly found herself fighting for her life in New York City cancer wards, where she was given a 35 percent chance of survival.
Jaouad started writing about what it's like to face a life-threatening illness at 22. During her "incanceration"—months in isolation to prevent infections—she documented her grueling treatments, first in a blog, then in a weekly column and videos for The New York Times called "Life, Interrupted," which generated an enormous response. She had become a different sort of war correspondent.
Between Two Kingdoms, Jaouad's searching memoir of her illness and its aftermath, takes its title from an observation in Susan Sontag's Illness as Metaphor: "Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick." The line between them, Jaouad discovers, is more porous than most people realize.
The daughter of a Tunisian-born French literature professor and a Swiss-born painter, Jaouad is a lifelong over-achiever. In addition to English, she speaks French (her first language), Arabic, Spanish, and Farsi. As a high school student, she traveled solo by train to NYC early every Saturday morning, lugging her double-bass from her home in Saratoga to Juilliard's precollege program. At Princeton, which she attended on full scholarship, she majored in Near Eastern studies, double-minored in French and gender studies, and received highest honors.